Theatre in Wales

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Backlash at criticism of culture bid     

THE team behind Cardiff's unsuccessful European Capital of Culture bid yesterday criticised the chairman of the judges for suggesting that it did not significantly include the Valleys in its fight for the title.

Cardiff, which submitted an all-Wales bid, and four other cities lost out to Liverpool in the race for the prize, which was announced by the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, live on television yesterday morning.

The head of the panel of independent judges, Sir Jeremy Isaacs, said Cardiff's bid had been a strong contender and its strengths had far outweighed its weaknesses "but in the end we weren't absolutely sure the Valleys were present in Cardiff as the bid in some ways suggested they were meant to be".

A spokesman for Cardiff 2008 said the team was taken aback by his "bizarre" comments in a radio interview which suggested that the Valleys did not have much say in the bid.

"We are really surprised at Sir Jeremy Isaacs's comment," he said.

"We have always emphasised that the bid was on behalf of the whole of Wales.

"The Valleys and Cardiff are closely interrelated.

"Thousands of people from the Valleys come into the city every day to work, to shop and to share in concerts and celebrations and any event in Cardiff would inevitably include the people of the South Wales Valleys."

Prime Minister Tony Blair has already promised extra funding for Cardiff and the other short-listed cities - Birmingham, Newcastle- Gateshead, Bristol and Oxford - to help build on their work.

A total of £2.8m was spent on the Cardiff 2008 bid by the National Assembly and Cardiff County Council.

Blaenau Gwent MP Llew Smith said more public money should now be invested in other parts of Wales.

"I think Cardiff can look after itself and that its future is very secure because the National Assembly seems to concentrate too much on supporting that city," said Mr Smith.

"They have spent so much money in supporting the bid as well as around £100m on a glorified opera house (Wales Millennium Centre) in Cardiff Bay.

"Perhaps the extra money which I assume would have been allocated to Cardiff if the bid had been successful can now go into the most deprived Valleys communities."

The hundreds of projects developed throughout Wales as part of the bidding process will not go to waste.

Instead they will be part of the celebrations in 2005 which will mark Cardiff's centenary as a city and its 50th anniversary as a European capital.

Cardiff 2008 chief executive Lynne Williams said she was disappointed not to have won the race but she was delighted with the support the bid had received from the whole of Wales.

"I honestly believe this has brought Cardiff and the rest of Wales closer together," she said.

All of the short-listed cities have been designated centres of culture by the European Commission and Ms Williams said Cardiff would be working closely with its counterparts to showcase the best in British culture.

Swansea also wants to form a new cultural partnership with Cardiff in a bid to made South Wales a major European attraction.

Russell Goodway, the leader of Cardiff County Council and chairman of Cardiff 2008, said he would have been concerned if South Wales's near neighbour Bristol had won the bid because this might have had a negative impact on Wales.

"The economy of South Wales would have been driven to Bristol," he said.

Despite Cardiff losing out to Liverpool, the bidding process had provided some real benefits for the Welsh capital, said Mr Goodway.

"We must not lose the momentum," he said.

"The transformation of Cardiff will continue."

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain hinted that Cardiff was a close runner-up in the campaign.

"I know from the information that I have received that we came desperately close to winning, but I can't say any more," he said.

"Everyone should see this as a fantastic boost to have got so close rather than a defeat."

Western Mail  
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Monday, May 05, 2003back



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